'American' voice on new terror video
ABC News is in possession of a tape purportedly from the group, threatening attacks on the US.
A new videotape that has surfaced in Pakistan threatens a massive attack against the United States by a purported American member of Al Qaeda. It is not yet known if the tape is an authentic Al Qaeda production, but it bears enough resemblance that some experts are taking the tape seriously.Skip to next paragraph
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The chilling 75-minute digital videotape, seen by a Christian Science Monitor reporter in Pakistan, where it was obtained by ABC News, shows a high degree of sophistication and bears the logo of Al Qaeda's video production house, As-Sahab.
On the video, the unknown man's face is masked with a Palestinian scarf and sunglasses. He stabs the air with his finger, which appears to be fair-skinned, as he delivers his warning in American-accented English.
"Allah willing, the streets of America will run red with blood, matching drop for drop the blood of America's victims," says the speaker, who calls himself Azzam al Amriki (or Azzam the American). "What took place on September 11th was but the opening salvo in the global war on America."
The next attacks, he adds, "could come at any moment."
This is the first time a purported Al Qaeda video has featured an English-speaking messenger, and while he references the top two Al Qaeda leaders, neither Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri appear. This unique circumstance, as well as the highly charged timing of the tape's release just days before Americans head to the polls, has the US intelligence community approaching the tape with caution.
"As-Sahab is an Al Qaeda propaganda outfit and engages in psychological warfare," says Bruce Hoffman, an expert on terror at the RAND Corp. in Washington. "Given the hype of the US election in general, that the jihadists claim credit for affecting the outcome of the Spanish elections, and the heightened chatter that intelligence agencies acknowledge, I'm surprised we haven't seen something like this sooner."
While ABC has not aired the video, knowledge of its existence was leaked to the Drudge Report and picked up by the mainstream press including NBC, Fox, the Washington Post, and Reuters who all reported on the video without seeing it.
"ABC News has shared this tape with both the CIA and FBI as part of our reporting process. ABC News is committed to accurate, credible, and complete journalism and is applying the same scrutiny to this tape that we apply to all raw information. ABC continues to report this story very aggressively," says Jeffery Schneider, vice president of ABC News.
At press time, the US intelligence community had yet to authenticate the video but they continued to work on it.
"Unless you can identify the individual or compare [it] to known samples, it is difficult to authenticate," says a US intelligence official. "There's no information in the intelligence community that links this video to a specific threat. So what [the speaker] is talking about doesn't appear in other intelligence."
The tape, delivered to ABC in Islamabad last Sunday by a courier who was paid a $500 transport fee, contains a lengthy Q&A session between "Mr. Amriki" and an off-camera interviewer. It ends with his warning, which cuts off abruptly when the tape runs out.
Analysts at Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, say the tape is genuine, explaining the material bears the same "signature" as previous As-Sahab video releases, which are unique in the world of jihadi video for their sophisticated editing techniques.
It features the same gold logo that appeared, among other places, in a 2003 statement from Mr. bin Laden.